The Post-Martial Orientation: Cultivating Toughness

Long the pride of place among the educated, compassion, empathy, and presentness are giving way to a completely different order of supreme virtues. This is because, at a more general level, the post-religious outlook is being supplanted by a post-martial outlook. It has to be so, since history is uncompromising.

This is what I see. The post-martial order carries forward the essence of physical courage in the forms of mental toughness, defiance, determination, perseverance. We have no single word for this hearty disposition: I could call it cheerfulness or something else. We are in the midst of reinventing a vocabulary for our time, one that should enable us to speak clearly about standing firm, holding our ground, and going on in the face of what once was believed to be known yet now is known to be unknown. Our own ignorance is what we are and will continue to be confronted with.

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Being in love with living

Over dinner last night she spoke of being in love with living. This morning there is no mist surrounding the hilltop, no rain falling on the opal rocks. The sun is neither out nor hiding and the trees are looking calm. There is a calmness to the morning, our final one here, a steadiness that has been with us throughout the week, even during the stranger moments and especially in the midst of the more revealing ones.

Yesterday afternoon we were hiking up the hill, now deep in the forest when an older man came riding up to us. Five feet away, he turned off his tractor. His speech was blurry and his face was ruddy. This gnomic man offered us some orange drink. He spoke at length of boyhood, of scenery, of trips to New York City. He ate at the Waldorf Astoria once and took a leak in the Trump Towers. He laughed at this memory. We couldn’t follow his tears which came forward unexpectedly and yet were held back. Twice he cried or almost cried, twice he struggled and revealed, and twice we couldn’t follow. We asked meekly and he couldn’t hear us. He called his 13 inch beagle, telling us not to fret about her. He invited us to his cabin. He told his rollicking beagle about his new friends. He drove off–a struggle, a kindness, a mystery–and we hugged each other again.

Soon we head back to the city, feeling out of time. When I began this sketch, the sun had held itself back beyond the morning. Now, as I look past the thicket of trees, as I run my eyes up the hillside, and as I stare into the eastern horizon, I see a pale blue topaz sky and it reminds me of her.